Well I could sit here all smugly and write about how unbelievably good England’s performance was last night. Even the Donald seemed surprised to see us qualify for the next stage after just two matches. Ordinarily of course we’d be out by this stage, ignominiously beaten by some minnow nation. But not last night as we put the rugby players from Panama to the sword. And yes Donald, Harry Kane is now the leading scorer in the tournament, impressive huh?
But this isn’t about footie for a change – no doubt welcomed by many readers I imagine. It’s about a fab TV programme I watched this morning on the BBC player. It was a documentary from award-winning director Liz Garbus, the first in a four-part series entitled ‘Reporting Trump’s First Year’. This first programme covered the opening 100 days of Trump’s Presidency viewed through the eyes of the New York Times. Two things made it fascinating for me a) here was a President with a notoriously thin-skin and a declared hatred for the US’s main-line media and The New York Times in particular, leading an administration in Washington the likes of which had never been seen/experienced before. And b) this sort of covered the period we spent out in NYC last year and which we followed, spell-bound, in the media whilst we there. I favoured two news channels – the New York Times which I quickly came to regard as a great newspaper and MSNBC’s ‘Morning Joe’ political tv channel. And both featured strongly in the programme so I could recall lots of the headline moments.
In terms of personalities we got to meet the executive editor of the NYT Dean Basquet who upfront admitted the paper got Trump’s campaign all wrong – confessing that they misjudged the mood of the people and the strength of his support. We also met the head of his Washington bureau, a female career correspondent, who was to be his front line opinion-former. I liked her a lot. We also met the special investigative team they set up to dig out the dirt on the Administration because they just had a hunch that all was not clean with this guy and his croney campaign team. Early on they had a lead on a dirty story but couldn’t back up their suspicions with hard facts and whilst they erred on the side of caution, the Washington Post stole in to break the story and steal their thunder. Salutory lesson and after this the NYT team got deep and dirty to lead on the collusion with the Russians storyline. In response the Trump administration reacted with their ‘fake news’ claims and lead a concerted attack on the media, and the NYT in particular, as ‘enemies of the people’. It all sounded a little Nazi-esque especially when Trump tweeted that the outgoing and highly-respected President Obama had wire-tapped his calls and was’sick’. Of course the Head of the FBI, James Comey, quickly came out to make clear that this was a completely groundless and patently ridiculous claim. He wouldn’t last long in the job.
It was glorious stuff and I remember it all so well. But what I admired so much about the journalists and editorial staff at the NYT was how scrupulously even-handedly they treated this man and his team of truth-benders even when the vitriol was pouring out from the White House and their correspsondents were actually being banned from the daily press briefings. I can’t wait for the rest of the series even though we know Trump is still there and doing/saying the most incredible things not just on the US domestic scene but now on a world stage. For the media it must be like being in a real life children’s book on craziness and manipulation. ‘Donald in Wonderland’, perhaps.